From Wildlife Extra:
New frog species discovered in India’s wastelands
A team of researchers from India and the National University of Singapore (NUS) has discovered a new species of narrow-mouthed frog in the laterite rock formations of India’s coastal plains. The frog, which is the size of a thumbnail, was named Microhyla laterite after its natural habitat.
The discovery by the research team, led by Mr Seshadri K S, a PhD student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, was published in the prestigious journal PLOS One on 9 March 2016.
Laterite rock formations are prominent landscape features in the coastal plains of southwest India. They are broadly considered as rocky areas as they are usually devoid of trees and other vegetation, and are therefore classified as wastelands. These areas are often used for dumping activities and are heavily mined for construction materials in the form of bricks.
While conducting field surveys as a part of his citizen science initiative “My laterite, My habitat”, independent researcher Mr Ramit Singal, who is one of the authors of the journal paper, spotted the frog in laterite habitats in and around the coastal town of Manipal, Udupi District, Karnataka State, India. He brought it to the attention of Mr Seshadri and his collaborators, who worked together to describe the frog.
The frog, which measures around 1.6 centimetres, is pale brown with prominent black markings on its dorsum, hands, feet and flanks. It has a call that can be easily mistaken for that of a cricket.
The newly discovered species was named Microhyla laterite (M. laterite) after the habitat it resides in. The research team suggested Laterite narrow-mouthed frog to be its common name, as frogs in the Microhyla genus have a smaller mouth compared to other frogs.
Mr Seshadri, who is the lead author of the journal paper, said, “By naming the frog after its habitat, we hope to draw attention to the endangered rock formations that are of ecological importance. M. laterite can potentially be used as a mascot to change peoples’ perception about laterite areas.”
To ensure the validity of the frog as a new species, Mr Seshadri and his team members studied the genes, body structure, colouration and vocalisations of four individual frogs. They also compared the results with data of closely related species.
“One could easily confuse this frog with other species like Microhyla ornata which is thought to occur all over India. However, it was evident from analysing the genes that M. laterite is a distinct species, and is closely related to M. sholigari, which is found only in the Western Ghats,” said Mrs Priti Hebbar, one of the authors of the paper who is studying the effects of forest fragmentation on frogs in India for her PhD. “All three species are small and similar in appearance and only a critical examination would reveal the differences,” she added.
Further studies and conservation efforts
Based on preliminary assessments, the research team suggested M. laterite to be classified as Endangered under the guidelines of the Red List by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as the geographic range of the frog is narrow, within an area of 150 square kilometres in southwest India.
“In spite of its geological heritage, laterite areas in India receive very little protection from any legislation. Given the threats these fragile habitats are facing, there is a strong imperative to conserve them,” said Mr Ramit.
Since M. laterite appears to be restricted to laterite rock formations along the west coast, the researchers intend to conduct further research to determine the evolutionary ecology of the frog, and to test for an association with laterite formations.
“How amphibians persist outside protected areas is not known. This critically endangered frog can be used as a basis for declaring its native laterite habitats as “Conservation Reserves” or “Biological Heritage Areas” under existing legislations in India, allowing us to further our knowledge and understanding of amphibians,” said Mr Seshadri.
See also here.
This video says about itself:
Frog Fights For Female Attention – Africa – BBC
16 March 2016
One frog is on the biggest climb of his life, a male in search of a mate but he has to overcome some obstacles first.
From the BBC today:
Frog species with yellow eyebrows found in Colombia
Researchers say they have discovered a new frog species with distinctive yellow eyebrows in Colombia.
The frog has a dark camouflage pattern which allows it to blend in with the rocky soil on which it dwells.
Researchers with the Humboldt Institute found the frog, which they named Pristimantis macrummendozai, in the Iguaquen Merchan moorlands, in central Boyaca province.
Colombia is one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries.
Researchers said that the species was well adapted to its moorland surroundings.
They said that female Pristimantis took advantage of the moist soil to lay their eggs in the ground.
According to their studies, the Pristimantis’ preferred breeding environment was at high altitude, above 3,500m (11,500ft).
Environmentalists in Colombia have been fighting for the country’s moorlands to be protected.
Last month, they celebrated when Colombia’s constitutional court banned mining in the moorlands, arguing that it could cause irreversible damage to their fragile ecosystem.
This video from Spain is about the Mallorcan midwife toad.
This fall, like every fall for the past six years, Jaime Bosch found himself dangling off a cliff on the island of Mallorca with a backpack full of tadpoles. The Spanish ecologist was rappelling down to the bottom of a steep canyon, preparing to return his precious cargo to the ponds where they had hatched.
Bosch, who works at Spain’s National Museum of Natural History, had evacuated the tadpoles weeks earlier, hoping to save them from certain death at the hands of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, better known as Bd. Since researchers discovered it in the late 1990s, the fungus has decimated amphibian populations around the world, leading to the collapse or extinction of at least 200 species. Bosch was hoping against hope that he could prevent the Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) from being next.
Bd is an insidious fungus, growing all over an infected amphibian’s skin—the organ through which the creatures breath and drink. Infection often leads to fatal organ failure. Normally, once Bd makes its way into an ecosystem, scientists can’t do much besides tally up the carnage.
Mallorca and its native toads have some unique characteristics that made Bosch think he might be able to save them. First of all, it’s a very simple system, ecologically speaking: one island, with one amphibian species. Plus, the island only has a few ponds, making it possible to capture every last tadpole that hatches in them. Finally, the ponds tend to dry out every summer and get refilled by autumn rains, which should flush out any Bd-infected water.
Not that it was easy. Hence the rappelling down into canyons to reach the ponds, loading the tadpoles into plastic water bottles, and making an arduous hike out. Once Bosch got the tadpoles back to his lab, he bathed them for seven days in an anti-fungal solution designed to kill any Bd spores growing on their skin. At first, he thought that would be enough to eliminate the fungus from the island. Optimistic, he loaded the tadpoles into a helicopter that would get them as close to the ponds as it could, before transferring them to his backpack for another rappelling trip down the canyons.
But when he and his team went back the next year, they found that the tadpoles were infected again. That meant the local environment was hiding a reservoir of Bd somewhere—most likely the adult toads that were too reclusive to catch.
Bosch decided that if his team couldn’t treat every infected animal, they would have to disinfect the whole place. So this time, after they evacuated the tadpoles to the lab for their anti-fungal baths, they drained the breeding ponds and scrubbed the underlying rock with a chemical call Virkon-S, renowned for its Bd killing ability.
“That’s what works. That’s when the fungus didn’t come back,” Bosch says. In an article published today in Biology Letters, he reports that his team successfully eliminated Bd from four out of five infected ponds on Mallorca. They repeated the protocol on the fifth pond this year, and Bosch hopes the whole island will be officially free of the fungus by the next tadpole season.
“It’s a monumental achievement,” says Brian Gratwicke, a biologist who leads the amphibian efforts at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC. “It provides huge hope for the whole community.”
But it’s not exactly transferable. Flying tadpoles around by helicopter? Rappelling down inaccessible canyons? Covering every rock in a pond with toxic chemicals? If this is what it takes to stop Bd on one island, in one simple ecosystem, how can scientists even hope to eradicate it in the rest of the world?
Well…they can’t. Karen Lips, a biologist at the University of Maryland who helped discover Bd, doubts any of these methods would be effective in the rainforest of Panama, where she works. “Sterilizing one pond is not going to do it. You’d have to sterilize the entire jungle.” Still, she says, such techniques could be useful for protecting other islands and isolated ecosystems from Bd. “Perhaps that’s what we’re going to be left with: lots of islands. Either islands in oceans, or mountaintop islands, or islands in a sea of concrete. Maybe that’s the way we’re going to be able to protect our amphibians in the future,” Lips says.
Bosch agrees that his protocol “is not a solution for eliminating Bd from everywhere in the world.” But, he says, “we can’t just stand still and do nothing,” watching amphibian after amphibian go extinct. “Every now and again [the amphibian science] community needs a win. And this is one of those wins,” Gratwicke says. Bosch won this battle. And sometimes, in a war, that’s the best you can hope for.
This video says about itself:
The festival organisers write about it:
Cuba’s rainforests are famous for housing the Anolis lizard. There are over 60 different species of Anolis lizard living in Cuba ranging in size from minute to mighty. These lizards have managed to dominate Cuba’s jungle and Adapting Anolis explores the adaptions that have allowed these lizards to become so successful.
There is also the film Pyrenees Island, about a newly discovered amphibian species.
The festival organisers write about it:
In 1990, the discovery of a mysterious frog motivated a Spanish ecologist to begin research on this little amphibian. After three years of extensive studies, Jordi Serra Cobo finally described this new species and named it Rana pyrenaica. Starting in the footsteps of the rare Pyrenean frog, the film invites us into the chaotic world of high mountain torrents.
In this turbulent environment, strange rare beings live alongside the frog. All of them have a complex evolutionary history. All of them are now threatened with extinction. The story tells us not only about the magic of the Pyrenean frog the naturalist discovered, but it also has a lot to teach us about ourselves and the uncertain future that awaits us.
And there is also this Dutch film about frogs at the festival.